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  3. Secrets of Customer-Obsessed Leaders

Article Secrets of Customer-Obsessed Leaders

Jenna Kluger Mar 27, 2022

Customer obsession is widely believed to be the key to making good businesses great. But what does it really mean to be customer-obsessed?

In our March Community Hour, we spoke with a panel of SaaS executives about the benefits of customer obsession and their tips to put it into practice. Our discussion leaders were:

Watch the full session here or read on for our top takeaways.

What it really means to be customer-obsessed

The term “customer obsession” is thrown around a lot lately. But what does it actually mean within an organization? For our panel, it’s all about following through on the promises you make to your customers.

“Customer obsession is about empathy,” says Sonci. “Our job is about saying what we’re going to do, when, and actually doing that.”

For Erica, being customer-obsessed is central to everything the company does, down to how they price their products. Their value-based pricing model keeps the company focused on driving the outcomes that customers need and want.

“Driving positive outcomes for our customers is existential for us,” she says.

secrets of customer-obsessed leaders

The business benefits of customer obsession

If you’re a company with a large customer base, it can be tempting to focus first on the needs of your employees, investors, and other stakeholders. But putting customer needs first actually benefits everyone across the business.

One of the most tangible benefits is customer loyalty.

“When you do things for your customers that your competitors won’t, you win their hearts – not just their minds,” says Erica.

Doug agrees that people want to do business with people they know, like, and trust. That’s why he feels it’s important to view your customers as your partners.

Beyond the customer benefits, cultivating such a culture results in a company that people love to work for.

“People want to go to work at a place where they are empowered to make change,” says Doug.

He adds that the customer experience actually starts with the employee experience. People enjoy working at a company that has a great product customers love. And happier employees result in better employee retention.

In the end, aligning your company around customer needs and outcomes also benefits your employees and investors. Happier customers means happier team members – both of which drive better business outcomes.

secrets of customer-obsessed leaders

How to put customer obsession into practice

So what systems do our leaders have in place to keep the business aligned to its goals to stay close to customers?

At Elastic Path, the Customer Success team is located within the Product team, which allows for better communication and collaboration between the two.

“Product development is a team sport,” he says, adding that it’s easier and more exciting for teams to take on a challenge they can relate to. That’s why their CS and Product teams focus on the qualitative conversations they have with customers when deciding which problems to solve.

Our leaders agree that storytelling is an integral part of putting customer obsession into practice.

“Our ability to be obsessed with customers is tied to our ability to tell stories about those customers,” says Sonci. “How are they being impacted day to day?”

Erica agrees that coming up with data is helpful, but backing up that data with stories creates shared empathy.

On the Product side, Doug hears a lot about “data-driven product decisions.” But he points out that it’s hard to be empathetic about data. Bringing in the qualitative piece with an actual story is an effective way to make teams care about the customer problem at hand.


One of the best parts of our Community Hours is answering questions from our attendees. Here, we headed into a live Q&A session, digging into some thought-provoking questions.

What data triggers can help uncover emerging issues before they become real issues?

At Elastic Path, Doug’s team uses in-product data like “rage clicks” to uncover areas of frustration.

Erica’s team looks at the number of support tickets. If they launch a product update or fix, does the support ticket volume decrease or increase?

Sonci likes to keep track of competitor mentions – if customers are talking about another platform or solution, when does it come up? What do they say?

How do you make sure most, if not all, customers are being listened to by Product – and not just the biggest or loudest?

Every customer’s voice matters, but it’s important to stay dialed in to your core customer persona so you can prioritize wants and needs.

Sonci recommends asking whether a piece of customer feedback is the exception or the rule. She encourages teams to keep track of the exceptions, but move with velocity on those issues that keep surfacing time and time again.

There was so much more to this discussion; to learn more, watch the whole session on YouTube.

Interested in being a part of these in-depth discussions yourself?

Join our Humans of Customer Success Community for free!